Yesterday’s big news is, actually, very old news. (Photo: Doug Ford yesterday). 

Our bumbling Premier, the hapless Doug Ford, is finally going to deliver on his stale 2018 promise to (sort of) open-up the beer market to greater retail competition in…. 2026. 

The policy was initially celebrated with great fanfare by Ford’s enablers. On 7 August 2018, former PC Health Minister, Newmarket-Aurora MPP and now health lobbyist, Christine Elliott, told the Ontario legislature:

“Buck-a-beer is part of the government’s commitment to transforming alcohol retailing in Ontario, which includes expanding the sale of beer and wine to convenience stores, grocery stores and big box stores. This is just further evidence that our government is going to do what we said we would do, and that’s put Ontario consumers first.”

The Beer Store Bill barrelled through the Legislature with no Committee stage. No thought had been given to the consequences of Ontario breaking its contract with the Beer Store owners. 


But this casual disregard for proper process was an early indication of how Ford would govern. Cack-handed and spur-of-the-moment decision making.

In 2019, after months trying, I got an appointment to meet Elliott at her constituency office in the Nature’s Emporium plaza in Newmarket.

Dawn Gallagher Murphy - who was appointed by Ford as PC candidate to replace Elliott  – sat in on the meeting, taking notes. Gallagher Murphy asked me to let her know beforehand what I wanted to talk about. It soon became clear to me that I knew more about the issue than they did.

I wanted to know what, if anything, would stop the Beer Store owners going to Court for breach of contract? And if the Province negotiated with the Beer Store owners and settled out of Court, what would that settlement look like?

I remember the blank faces.

I saved a few minutes to talk about the subversion of Parliamentary process and procedure. The story is rich with irony. 

Choking off debate

The disgraced former Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister, Steve Clark, used to complain about the way in which the (then) Liberal Government was constantly trying to curtail debate. On 28 May 2015 he fumed:

“Time after time, we’ve had negotiations where all of a sudden the government stops talking to us and presents bills that will either choke off debate or move bills through quickly without hearing from constituents.”

There is now a very long list of consequential Bills that reached the Statute Book with absolutely no public input whatsoever. 

Does that concern Newmarket-Aurora’s Dawn Gallagher-Murphy?

I doubt she has given any thought to it. 

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See also Toronto Star editorial 15 December 2023.

Another screeching U-turn from the Ford Government as Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Paul Calandra abandons plans to dissolve Peel Region. 

In a news release earlier today Calandra talks about "recalibrating" the mandate of the Peel Region Transition Board to focus on local government efficiency and responsiveness instead of dissolution.

The Government forged ahead with plans to break up Peel without considering the costs of a huge municipal reorganisation. And the Bill was rushed through the Legislature with no opportunity for the public and experts to comment. This is the result.

Calandra says:

“While we originally thought that the best way to achieve our goals of better services and lower taxes was through dissolution, we’ve since heard loud and clear from municipal leaders and stakeholders that full dissolution would lead to significant tax hikes and disruption to critical services the people of Peel Region depend on. This is something our government will never support.

Oh dear! The Government is becoming a laughing stock. One step forward. Two steps back.

I am left wondering how much this pointless exercise cost the taxpayers.

The new Liberal Leader Bonnie Crombie, the Mayor of Mississagua, will be spitting feathers. 

Too bad. She was always on the wrong side of the argument.

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Update on 13 December 2023: From Newmarket Today: Audit of Newmarket among Ford Government walk-backs


The Newmarket-Aurora Conservatives have chosen their candidate for the next Federal election, Sandra Cobena

I know very little about Sandra Cobena but that will change. 

She says she believes in “fiscal sanity, social stability and moral clarity”.

I’d like a few more specifics. Especially that bit about "moral clarity".

Waiting on the sidelines

Her video says “waiting on the sidelines is no longer an option”.

I’ve just googled Sandra but there’s not a lot there. A bit like Dawn Gallagher Murphy. No footprints in the sand. No articles in the press. No letters to the editor. But maybe they’ll surface. I hope so.

Cobena, a senior manager in commercial credit at TD, defeated Harold Kim for the nomination. Harold – like so many Conservative candidates – boycotted the local election debates when he was the candidate last time round, so, for that reason if for no other, I’m glad’s he’s gone.

I’d be very surprised if the sitting Liberal MP, 73 year old Tony Van Bynen, seeks another term. 

Cruising into retirement

The middle-of-the-road Tony Van Bland is gently cruising into his third retirement.

The Prime Minister could always rely on his support and his vote in the Commons.

Since his election in 2019 Van Bland hasn’t put a foot out of line.

Well, except once. A few weeks ago he joined 33 other Liberal MPs in urging a ceasefire in Gaza.

Since then, he’s gone quiet again. 

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Update on 13 December 2023: From Newmarket Today

The Ford Government is deeply corrupt.  

The annual report from Ontario's Auditor General, published today, lists failings which go to the very heart of the way in which we are governed.

Ford doesn't consult people before legislating. (Photo: Boris Johnson - on his money-making speaking circuit - jokes with fellow Conservative Paul Calandra at last week's Realtor's Conference.)

No meaningful consultation

The Acting Auditor General Nick Stavropoulos says the Government made:

“significant changes to energy, land-use planning and housing policies without meaningful consultation, undermining Ontarians’ ability to participate in decisions that can impact the environment.”

and it didn't follow the Environmental Bill of Rights

“when it made sweeping changes to the Province's land use and housing framework and removed lands from the Greenbelt. The Government… made these changes to increase housing supply without adequate public consultation… and did not give the public complete information about the proposed changes.”

Brains behind the operation

Increasingly, we are governed by fiat and edict with the rules bent and manipulated by Paul Calandra, Ford's consigliere and the brains behind the operation. 

Shamefully, after more than two months on the Order Paper, he refuses to bring forward for debate the Integrity Commissioner's recommendation to the Legislature that it reprimands the disgraced ex Minister Steve Clark for his role in the Greenbelt scandal.

Second thoughts on dissolving Peel Region

We read today that Ford is having second thoughts about breaking up Peel Region because of the huge impact on taxes. 

The Bill dissolving Peel Region was never sent to Committee for detailed line-by-line scrutiny by MPPs. It just rocketted through the legislature at warp speed with no consultation with experts or the general public. 

Bill 136 which returns lands to the Greenbelt, Bill 150 which restores Official Plan boundaries and Bill 154 on Ontario Place have all sped through the Legislature in a matter of days.

Public consultation doesn't feature in the process. 

No Committee sessions

Paul Calandra was the sole witness giving evidence to MPPs in the Bill Committees for the Greenbelt and Planning reversals (Bills 136 and 150). The legislation on Ontario Place (Bill 154) went through with no Committee session at all.

The Acting Auditor General says the decision to move the Ontario Science Centre to  Ontario Place  was made without a full comparison of its costs or proper consultation.

How a Bill becomes Law

The Ontario Legislative Assembly's website explains "How a Bill Becomes Law" but this bears little comparison with the reality where legislation is rushed through.

Ford is not remotely interested in making sure policies are stress-tested before they reach the Statute Book. That's not his style.

What is to be done?

So what do we do with Governments which break the rules, jettison long-standing Parliamentary conventions, stifle and smother debate and ignore the law? 

There is no quick and easy answer to this.

Under our system the Government of the day, with a good majority, can pretty much do as it pleases and push things through - even when these have not been explicitly flagged up in an election platform. The Greenbelt changes were never mentioned by Ford in the June 2022 Provincial Election. Nor for that matter was Ontario Place.

In the absence of a written constitution we rely on politicians observing established rules and conventions. Not casually throwing them overboard. And yet this is what Ford does. He acts now and thinks later.

Deep Trouble

Professor Peter Hennessey, an authority on contemporary British political history, had Boris Johnson specifically in mind when he warned:

 “If the prime minister is the number one wrong ’un, you’re in deep, deep trouble. It’s shown us the fragility of our constitution.” 

So what do we do when our Premier is "the number one wrong'un"?

I'd like to see the Integrity Commissioner report on the rules and conventions of the Ontario Legislature as a way of sparking the debate we need to have.

But that's not going happen without Ford's agreement. 

Which takes us back to square one.


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Update on 8 December 2023: the Toronto Star editorial: Another flawed plan by Ford

Update on 9 December 2023: from the UK's Guardian newspaper: Peter Osborne writes: Boris Johnson is gone for good but his brand of empty populism lives on

Update on 13 December 2023: From the Toronto Star: Ford abandons plan to break up Peel Region

The legislature is now in recess until 20 February 2024.

From the Order Paper: Filed by Paul Calandra 30 November 2023









The celebrity Newmarket-Aurora Progressive Conservative MPP and foodie, Dawn Gallagher Murphy, filed an expense claim for her 22 October 2023 BBQ at Riverwalk Commons in Newmarket which comes in at $213.91 

This year’s modest claim contrasts with the extravagance of last’s year’s BBQ which was bankrolled by the taxpayers to the tune of $11,160. She believes this was money well spent and was absolutely appropriate. (Photo right: this year's vibrant and fun BBQ)


However, the $213.91 looks as if it has been filed in error as the expense figures published today by the authorities at the Ontario Legislative Assembly (OLA) only cover the period 1 July 2023 – 30 September 2023 and not expenses incurred in October.

The BBQ expense, in its glorious entirety, will be revealed in Gallagher Murphy’s claim for October-December 2023 which will be published by the OLA on 1 March 2024. These quarterly expenses do not show the cost of running her constituency office or the advertisements and flyers which are everywhere. These and other major expenditures are reported annually

On 1 November 2023 she told MPPs:

On Sunday, October 22, I hosted my second-annual community barbecue event for Newmarket–Aurora at Newmarket’s Riverwalk Commons. It was an eventful afternoon and I was thrilled to see so many familiar faces while meeting some new ones too from our vibrant community. This event is more than just an opportunity to enjoy good food and fun activities. It is about bringing people together, fostering a sense of unity, building relationships and celebrating the diversity that makes my community so special.

Casual with the facts

Dawn Gallagher Murphy describes herself as "a proud mother, wife and entrepreneur with 25 years in the secure payments industry”. She says her business served the Canadian and international banking industry. So how can she be so casual when it comes to financial reporting?  

Gallagher Murphy’s Statement of Expenses filed with Elections Ontario after the June 2022 election showed an expense of $5,228.60 for “Meetings Hosted” but in the supporting Schedule 6 the figure shown for the same “Meetings Hosted” amounts to $8,228.11. 

I have no idea where these meetings were. Or how many voters were treated to a free lunch. 

In February I asked Dawn to explain why there was a difference in the two figures. She didn’t reply so I wrote to the Chief Financial Officer, Blake Koehler, who signed off her Campaign Return to Elections Ontario and to the Riding President, Teresa Kruse. I didn’t hear from them either.

Incorrectly categorised.  

So I wrote to the auditors and was told that food expenses of $947.72 and $3,159.28 were incorrectly categorised as “Meetings Hosted” expenses and should have been reported under "Victory Party” expenses. I was told:

“We have gone through the file and supporting documents. $947.72 of food expenses from Wicked Eats and $3,159.28 of food expenses from A Million Mouthfuls should be reported under “Victory Party” expense instead of “Meeting Hosted” expenses in Schedule 6. This results in a total of $4,121.11 of Meeting Hosted reported in Schedule 6 and the remaining balance is expenses not exceeding $200 for each supplier.”

These adjustments would have changed the figures shown for Gallagher Murphy on the Elections Ontario website. But this proved to be unnecessary as I learn from the auditors that unnamed suppliers billed Gallagher Murphy for unspecified goods and services which conveniently balanced everything out. These individual bills came in below the $200 reporting threshold where suppliers have to be named.

Personally, I think candidates owe it to the public and to their fellow candidates to submit financial information in their election return which is squeaky clean and 100% accurate. 

And that's also true for MPPs claiming taxpayers' money for BBQs and other expenses.

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